The Chicago White Sox' 2012 season ended abruptly, and—without question—a contributing factor was an unbalanced schedule. So, as the White Sox prepare for the 2013 campaign, will the schedule prove to be a hindrance yet again?.
No. The schedule for the White Sox in 2013 has them set up for success, because it is the opposite of 2012’s.
When the Sox play the bulk of their home games is the central issue.
See, the White Sox—like most other teams—tend to play better in their own stadium. This is evidenced by the fact that they were nine games over .500 at U.S. Cellular field last season.
Unfortunately for the 2012 White Sox, they played a vast majority of their home games during the first half of the year. The shift in schedule balance coincided with their stagnation and eventual drop in the standings.
The 2013 schedule, on the other hand, is structured so that there is a heavy dose of home games after the All-Star break.
That bodes well for the White Sox, and an inside look at the schedule splits can shed some light as to why.
In 2012, their first 10 games after the All-Star break were on the road. They lost seven of them. Overall, the South Siders played 15 of their first 18 games after the break on the road and lost nine.
It was an ugly way to start the second half.
The 2013 schedule is markedly different, however. The Sox start the second half with 19 of their first 26 contests at home. And overall, they will play 39 games after the All-Star break at the Cell as opposed to just 29 on the road.
For as favorable as that split is, though, the biggest difference between this year and last is how the schedule is set up over the final three weeks.
Over the course of the final 19 games in 2012, the Sox only played at home seven times. In contrast, 14 out of their final 19 tilts during the 2013 season will be at 35th and Shields.
Also, the White Sox will only face teams from the AL Central during that stretch this year. Last year, they played the Los Angeles Angels three times and the Tampa Bay Rays four times as the season came to a close.
They went 1-6 during those games. Being able to concentrate on division opponents should reap direct dividends as the 2013 season comes to its conclusion.
Oh, there is one other scheduling quirk that could have a big impact.
While the White Sox are finishing the season at the Cell against the Kansas City Royals, the Detroit Tigers will be on the road against the Miami Marlins. That’s right. The Tigers play their last three games on the road—against a National League team—without the benefit of the designated hitter.
How important is the schedule to a teams success?
The schedule appears to be set up perfectly for a long end of season run.
Now, it will be up to the White Sox to play to a high level early in the season and win their share of ballgames. If they don't, general manager Rick Hahn may be in a selling mood prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
If Hahn subtracts—rather than adds—talent, it does not matter what the schedule looks like to end the season. They will already be out of the race.
If they can remain in contention, however, they will be in an ideal position to close out a Central division title.
White Sox play-by-play announcer Ken Harrelson often says that the secret to winning baseball is “not who you play, but when you play them.”
Let me insert a caveat into that statement by adding that it also matters where you play them.
The White Sox will need a strong finish in order to make the postseason. Thanks to their schedule, they may have the chance to do just that.